Archive for the ‘Louis Sachar: Holes’ Category

Louis Sachar

January 10, 2010

Louis Sachar was born in East Meadow, New York, in 1954. when he was nine years old, his family moved to Tustin, California. He now lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife Carla, who is an elementary school teacher and his daughter Sherre, who was born in 1987. Louis likes to play chess and cards, to go skiing, to play the guitar (and sing loudly), but most he likes spending time with Carla and Sherre.
Sachar says he needs to be alone when he writes. He doesn’t talk about a book until it’s finished. He starts with „a little idea“, often just a character trait. One idea will lead to another until it „snowballs“ into a strong story. Most of his ideas come from what he remembers doing and feeling and thinking as a child. He also gets some ideas from his daughter. It takes him about a ywar and a half to write a book. No one is allowed in his office while he is writing except for his dogs. Sachar says he got the idea for Holes when he moved to Austin, Texas. It was so hot in Texas that he decided to write a story about suffering in the heat. It took him eighteen months to write Holes, the same amount of time Stanley was sentenced to stay in the camp. He was written several books for young teenagers, including There is a Girl in the Boy’s Bathroom (1987) and Marvin Redpost: Is He a Girl? (1993). In 1998 he won the Newberry Award for Holes.


The reveal (Part V)

January 10, 2010


Zero started to talk about himself. He told Stanley, that he and his family always took what they needed and he didn’t even know, that it was stealing. Because he was an illiterate, he couldn’t read the sign of Clyde Livingston on it and he thought taking old shoe’s from someone is better that taking new shoes. He was able to remember that they really smelled bad. Zero got arrested not because of Clyde Livingston’s shoes which he left on a deck of a parked car. He got arrested because he went out of a store, stealing some new sneakers.
Stanley thought about their future, because he knew that they can’t live here forever. He thought about going back to the compound because anyway everybody thought they died in the desert. Furthermore, he wanted to know more about that gold tube with the two letters „KB“.
The two boys decided to go back. Their provision was a sack full of onions, the jars and the canteen full of water. A short time before they reached the camp, they already noticed familiar voices, like the voice of Mr. Sir. As they reached the camp, they climbed into two holes and waited until the last camper has finished his digging. As Stanley recognized the hole where he found the gold tube, they waited for the camp to fall asleep.
While he began to dig, Zero went to the compound to get some water. After digging a while, Stanley found the treasure chest, a kind of metal suitcase. As he pulled it out, a bright light was shining in his face. „Thank you, you boys have been a big help,“ said the Warden. But there was one problem. With digging out the suitcase he also digged out a lizard nest. Suddenly, they were crawling all over and nobody could move anymore.

Cars arrived. Two persons came out of them, a woman and a tall man. The woman emerged as Stanley’s lawyer. As she asked the Warden some questions, she lied about everything. Stanley didn’t stole her suitcase and he wasn’t at the hospital the last week. Than Zero noticed the two words STANLEY YELNATS on the suitcase.
The man was the Texas Attorney General, the chief law enforcement officer for the state and Stanley’s lawyer was named Ms. Morengo. As she wanted Stanley to leave with her, he didn’t want to, because he didn’t want to leave without Zero. The Attorney General detected that Zero, or rather Hector Zeroni had no claim of authority so the lawyer decided to take Zero with them.
Ms. Morengo is a patent attorney and helps Stanley’s father with his project. He is still working on it, but meanwhile he invented a product that eliminates foot odor. She got a sample in her briefcase and handed it to the boys. The boys held that the smell of this product is very familiar. It smelled like peaches. A short while later both boys fell asleep. Behind them the sky had turned dark, and for the first time in over a hundred years, a drop of rain fell into the empty lake.

It is interesting that Stanley’s father invented his cure for foot odor that day after the great-great-grandson of Elya Yelnats carried the great-great-great-grandson of Madame Zeroni up the mountain.

The Attorney General closed Camp Green Lake. Ms. Walker, or the Warden, who was in desperate need of money, had to sell the land which had been in her family for generations. It was bought by a national organization dedicated to the well-being of young girls. In a few years, Camp Green Lake will become a Girl Scout camp.
The content of the suitcase was also tedious. At first everyone gasped at the jewels and Stanley and hector thought they were millionaires. But the jewels were of poor quality, worth no more than twenty thousand dollars. Underneath the jewels was a stack of papers that had once belonged to the first Stanley Yelnats. These consisted of stock certificates, deeds of trust, and promissory notes. They were hard to read and even more difficult to understand. Ms. Morengo’s law firm spent more than two months going through all the papers. They turned out to be a lot more valuable than the jewels. After legal fees and taxes, Stanley and Zero each received les than a million dollars. It was enough for Stanley to buy his family a new house, with a laboratory in the basement, and for Hector to hire a team of private investigators.
The last thing which the author has written is one last scene, which took place almost a year and a half after Stanley and Hector left Camp Green Lake:
There was a small party at the Yelnats House and Zero was also invited. They watched the Super Bowl until a commercial came on the screen. One could see Clyd Livingston in it. But besides being on the television screen, Clye Livingston was also sitting on the couch next to Stanley. The television Clyde said among other things: „They call me Sweet Feet. But my fett weren’t always sweet. They used to smell so bad that nobody would sit near me in the dugout. Then a teammate told me about Sploosh. Now I really do have sweet feet.“ Everyone at the party clapped their hands. Stanley glanced at Zero. There was a woman sitting behind him and she was fluffing his hair with her fingers. Very softly, she half sang, half hummed a song, that her grandmother used to sing to her when she was a little girl. If only, if only, the moon speaks no reply; reflecting the sun and all that’s gone by. Be strong my weary wolf, turn around boldly. Fly high, my baby bird, my angel, my only.

Reading impressions:
I was very shocked as I read that the Warden noticed in an ambush that the boys came back and that they digged out the suitcase, for what she and her family searched so long. It is also very weired that the product against foot odort smells like peaches. Furthermore the author first builds up tension, because everybody wants to know what’s in the suitcase and the he broke this tension down when he says that there jewels, but not qualitative one’s. The reader gets disappointed. But in the next sentence, he delights the reader by telling that there are some papers which are even more valued than those jewels, so that Stanley and Zero become millionaires. The last chapter is very conclusive and everything what happend before becomes clearer, so that the reader understands every action and happening. The last part of the chapter is nice, because the author left some kind of room to imagine and conclude by oneself. At the end, the sense of the pig lullaby becomes clear.

The book is written in a simple language, so I seldom took my dictionary. I like it very much, because the plot takes place in a different surrounding, with a lot of characters and a lot of actions. I definetively recommend this book, because it grabs one’s interest and one really likes to know what happens next and in what relation everything what happens stands. There are a lot of details, like the name of the donkey Mary Lou which appears later at the front of the boat in the desert. Because of that, you really have to focus on the story, but it wasn’t to hard for me. I’m completely positive surprised by this book. In my opinion, it is a raving success!

Finding refuge in God’s Thumb (Part IV)

January 10, 2010


Stanley thought about escaping and searching for Zero, but he knew that it was almost impossible to find him. He was listening to a conversation between the counselors. They were asking each other if Zero had any family or friends who could remember him. The Warden concluded, that Zero’s records have to be destroyed. „He was never there“, she said.
Two days later a new kid was assigned to group D. His name was Brian, but X-Ray called him Twitch because he was always fidgeting. Stanley could not stop thinkig about Zero and he badly wanted to find him, but he was also aware of the need of a car. His thoughts were divided but suddenly, he flung the door to the truck and climbed quickly inside. Unfortunately, the ride was very short. The truck fell into one hole and Stanley was badly smashed out of the truck. He stood up and began to ran, with his canteen banging against his chest. As he ran, and every time the canteen hit against him, it reminded him that it was empty. Stanley headed in what he thought was the direction of the Big Thumb. He began to hallucinate, he saw water where no water was. After a while he thought he could make out the shape of the mountains through the haze. At first he wasn’t sure if this was another kind of mirage, but the farther he walked, the clearer they came into view and almost straight ahead of him, he could see what looked like a fist, with its thumb sticking up. But Stanley changed his direction as he saw a weired object, because he thoght he would never make it to the thumb. After a while he recognized the object: it was a boat named “Mary Lou”. Below the boat there was a tunnel leading down and it looked big enough for a good-sized animal to crawl through. As Stanley screamed “hey!”

he hoped that he could scare a possible animal living in there. But a whispering “hey” was the answer. It was Zero. both crawled into the tunnel because it protected them from the sun and it was a bit cooler in there. Zero told him, that he found 16 jars of sploosh. As Stanley tasted, it savoured like peaches. He tried to convince Zero to go back to the compound, but Zero didn’t want to.

Instead, the boys decided to go straight to the big thumb. Zero had stomach trouble because of the peaches. Heaven knows how old they was. After eating them, he needed to throw up a lot. To get some deflection, Zero asked Stanley to give him some words to learn. After a while, they reached the end of the former lake. Huge white stone cliffs rose up before them and they could no longer see big thumb. They two boys tried to climb up the wall and they managed it somehow.

As they climbed higher and higher, they noticed even more weeds and bugs, so Stanley concluded there must be water somewhere. Than suddenly, Zero collapsed and didn’t move anymore.

Stanley lifted Zero and carried him, lefting the sack of jars and the shovel behind. After a little while, he became aware of a foul odor but he wasn’t able to relate where it come from. The ground also became very muddy… And Stanley understood: You need water to make mud. With both hands he grabbed a hole and he felt some tiny pool of water at the bottom of his hole. By grabbing deeper, he digged out an onion. He ate one half and gave the other half to Zero.
After Zero waked up, he told Stanley that he stole the shoes from Clyde Livingston. But Stanley didn’t want to believe him and thought he was just delirirous. To calm him down, he sang to him: „If only, if only,“ the woodpecker sighs, „the bark on the trees was just a little bit softer.“ While the wolf waits below, hungry and lonely, he cries to the moo-oo-oon. „If only, if only.“
Now, the author switches back to Green Lake, 100 years ago: As Mrs. Glady Tennyson, a very keen lady, always wearing good and expensive clothes, came running down the street after Sam, everybody wondered. She wanted to thank Sam for his onions, because they made her daughter Rebecca free from stomach ache.
Swichting back: The onions and the bit of water seemed to do well to Zero. He looked stronger and healthier. Stanley climbed down the hill to search for the shovel and the jars and he wondered how far he had to walk, because already the clmbing DOWN was very hard for him. He couldn’t believe that he carried Zero up this distance and above all upwards.

Reading impressions:

It becomes clear that this institution for „building characters“ of young offenders is a corrupt gang, as the Warden said Zero’s records need to be destroyed. There is something bad going on, but one can’t figure out what exactly. On the one side I think it’s great that Stanley is such a good friend for Zero that he is even able to steal the counselors truck, on the other side I think it’s very tired of life. Stanley is surely aware of what happens when you are alone, lost in the desert with no water… I really don’t know how he is going to manage his situation. I think they are NOW building character, being alone in the desert, searching for something to eat or drink, helping each other and assessing happenings which might come true.

We can also see that the switching between the two stories make sence. The happenings 100 years ago define the happenings now.
Now I really want to know what happens the next: Are they both going to survive? Are they going to have a conflict because of this tricky situation, or will they manage it together? What do the counselors and their teammates think now?

There is something shady about it (Part III)

January 10, 2010


By walking back, Stanley thought about his grandfather, not the one who stole the pig, but the pig stealer’s son. After he kissed a girl called Kate Barlow, she left him stranded in the dessert. After 17 days, a group of rattlesnake hunter’s found him. As they asked him, how he survived, he said that he found refuge on God’s thumb. But nobody ever knew what he meant by God’s thumb, including himself. As he got back, the boys tried to get informations from what happend in the cabin, but Stanley didn’t went into details. At the end, he realized that his hole was digged, although he wasn’t there. He concluded that it was Zero who digged for him, because his hole was the smallest.
Stanley thanked Zero for digging his hole, but he couldn’t understand why he did this for him. The only thing Zero said is that he knows that Stanley didn’t steal neither the sunflower seeds, nor the sneakers. After this statement, Stanley kept silent. Than he offered to teach Zero to read as a gesture of thankfulness and Zero would dig Stanley’s hole for about an hour, so that Stanley can save his energy to teach Zero. As he thought back to the Warden and her makeup kit, he realized where he had seen the gold tube before: he had seen it in his mother’s bathroom, and he has seen it again in the Warden’s cabin. It was half of a lipstick container. Than he silently formed the name Kate Barlow and he wondered if it really could have belonged to this kissin’ outlaw.
In this chapter, the author switches back to Green Lake City one hundred years ago. It was a beautiful citiy, with the largest lake in Texas. The city was especially beautiful when the peach trees, which lined the shore, bloomed with pink and rose-colored blossoms. Every year, on the 4th of July they’d play games, dance, sing and swim in the lake to keep cool and prizes were awarded for the best peach pie and peach jam. A special prize was given every year to Miss Katherine Barlow for her fabulous spiced peaches. She preserved the peaches in jars with different ingredients. The jarred peaches would last all winter, but they were always eaten by the end of it. Katherine Barlow was the only schoolteacher in the town and she teached in a very shabby school. The woman was very pretty and popular by everyone. One of her pupils was Trout walker. His real name was Charles Walker but he got his nickname because his feet smelled like a couple of dead fish. He had food fungus, the same foot fungus Clyde Livingston had. But in difference to that, Mr. Livingston showered every day. Trout was a very rich guy and got everything he ever wanted. This time, the family bought a motorboat which made a horrible loud noise and spewed ugly black smoke over the beautiful lake. Trout was also very interested in Katherine and he couldn’t understand that she had turned him down. „No one ever says ‘No’ to Charles Walker“ he said.
Back to the compound. Mr. Sir’s face was swollen to a size of half a cantaloup and there were three dark-purple jagged lines running down his cheek where the Warden had scratched him. As some of the guys recognized his scarry face, Mr. Sir became very violent and aggressive. As the watertruck arrived the second time, Mr. Sir was driving it. He filled the canteen’s, just until Stanley’s turn. Instead filling in the water into the canteen, Mr. Sir held it right next to the stream of water. Without riot, Stanley went away, just saying „Thank you, Mr. Sir“.
Green Lake, 100 years ago: There was a doctor and his name was Dr. Hawthorn. Whenever people got sick, they would go see Doc Hawthorn. But not only Dr. Hawthorn, they would visit Sam, too. Sam was their onion man, who sold onions in the town. He claimed that they’re nature’s magic vegetable and if you just eat onions, you can live 200 years. As Katherine Barlow bought some onions from Sam, they got into a conversation and at the end they made a deal: Sam agreed to fix the leaky roof in exchange for six jars of spiced peaches. When Sam finished his job, Katherine was very sad. Then she found a new task for him: fixing the windows for 2 more jars of spiced peaches. As the windows were fixed, she complained that her desk wobbled and Sam fixed it. And as the desk was fixed, she told him to fix the door, too. No matter what task she gave to him, he said that he „can fix that“. As the whole building was finished, it looked wonderful. Everyone was happy and proud of the buildig, except Mrs. Katherine Barlow, because she didn’t have nothing more for Sam to fix. One day, she heard him screaming again, selling oinions as always. She ran down to see him and confessed him, that her heart is broken now. After this statement, Sam said „I can fix that“ and kissed her. They were seen by Hattie Parker and she pointed her finger in their direction and whispered „God will punish you!“.
The people got to know the kissing between Sam and Katherine very fast and nobody was thrilled positive by this. They took revenge with Trout Walker as the leader and destroyed the whole school. Her complain by the police officer was useless, he just wanted to kiss her in a discusting way. He said, Sam is going to be punished by hanging. Sam and Katherine tried to flee with Sam’s boat, but Trout Walker catched them up very fast. The Walker boat smashed Sam’s boat and Sam was shot and killed in the water. Katherine Barlow was rescued against her wishes. Sam’s donkey Mary Lou was shot. Since then, not one drop of rain has fallen on Green Lake. So, whom did God punish? After Sam’s death, Katherine killed the police officer by a shot in his head. Then she carefully applied a fresh coat of red lipstick and gave him the kiss he had asked for. For the next 20 years Kissin’ Kate Barlow was one of the most feared outlaws in all the West.
Stanley’s social situation became worse: The boys didn’t accept that he teaches Zero and that he got one hour for free, they were mocking at him and they were saying rough things to him. Above all, Mr. Sir continued to let the water stream flowing besides Stanley’s canteen. But once, Mr. Sir took Stanley’s canteen, went behind the car and came back with a full canteen. He asked him to drink, but Stanley was afraid of the vile substance Mr. Sir could have poured into it. In this chapter, Stanley got to know the right name of Zero: Hector Zeroni.
Green Lake, 100 years ago: After 20 years, Kate Barlow returned back to Green Lake. Already these days it was a ghost town on a ghost lake. She found the abandoned cabin where she’s was going to live in 3 months. One day, she got waken up by Trout Walker. He threatend her with a gun to give him money. Trout didn’t came alone, a redheaded woman stood besides him, rummaging through the cabin. Her name was Linda Miller, a former pupil of Katherine Barlows class. They both threatend her to give them her loot, because she was famous for robbing banks in Houston. But Kate didn’t betray anything, she just said „Go ahead and kill me Trout. But I sure hope you like to dig. ‘Cause you’re going to be digging for a long time. It’s a big vast wasteland out there. You, and your children, and their children, can dig for the next hundred years and you’ll never find it.“ They forced her to walk barefeet over the hot ground until she shows them where they can find the loot. Kate noticed that Linda Miller is wearing turqouise-studded black boots. As she felt on the ground because of Linda’s beat, she looked rightly in the red eyes of a yellow-spotted lizard. It quickly bits her with his black teeth in her leg and lapped up the droplets of blood that leaked out of the wound. Kate Barlow died laughing.

The weather changed, for the worse. The air became thicker and unbearably humid. The boys were drenched in sweat. There was a thunderstorm preparing, with a lot of flashes. In one moment, Stanley thought he had seen an unusual rock formation on top of one of the mountain peaks. The peak looked exactly like a giant fist, with the thumb sticking straight up. He wasn’t sure whether he’d seen it or not. Although, instead of lightening flashing behind the tumb, in Stanley’s mind, the lightning was coming out of the thumb, as if it were the thumb of God.
Mr. Pendanski arrived with the watertruck. While the boys are mocking about Stanley, saying things like „Zero’s your slave“ and „Caveman’s doing a big favor. Zero likes to dig holes“, they offered him the first place in line. „He’s better than all of us. Aren’t you, Caveman?“, still with a mocking tone. As the situation escalated and Zigzag begans to beat Stanley, Zero came to help him. The Warden came to see what happend. Zigzag told her, that Stanley teached Zero to read and for this, Zero is digging for one hour Stanley’s hole. Also as the Warden got to know, what Zero learned, she forbid everybody to dig somebody other’s hole. Than suddenly, Zero took his shovel and hit Mr. Pedanski’s head. The Warden didn’t want the counselors to shoot him, because she knew that running away is useless.

Reading impressions:
The story continues to be very excited. I’d like to now, what is „God’s Thumb“really? Is it really a rock or does this exist just in Stanley’s imagination? Maybe it is the same thumb his great-great-grandfather have seen after he was left back in the desert by Kate Barlow? I noticed that this story completely grabbed my attention and I’ve seen, that I was reading this book although I’ve been very tired. Usually, I’ll put a book away when I’m tired. But this one really interests me and I want to know what happens next. While reading, I’m constantly asking myself questions. I can’t figure out why the author switches between two stories, but I think they might be explaning each other. Anyway, I feel very excited and inquisitve while reading. Moreover, the author is very succesful in describing situations so that the reader really can feel what any character is feeling in a certain moment. For example, I really can feel how Trout Walker felt as Kate Barlow was biten by the lizard. He wanted to know so badly where the loot could be and the only person who knew the answer died in front of him. But not because he or Linda shot her and wanted her do be dead, but through the bite of the yellow-spotted lizard. I think he felt desperate, angry and somehow lost.

Building character or being slave? (Part II)

January 10, 2010


X-Ray talked to Stanley and he told him, if he finds anything interesting, Stanley should first give it to X-Ray. They call him X-Ray because he’s almost blind and in pig latin his name is Rex. Because X-Ray is clearly the leader of this group, Stanley agreed. He was glad that they call him Caveman, because this was a sign of accepting him as a group member. Stanley imagined how they all become friends and they go together to the school compound to meet Derrick Dunne, his enemy and troublemaker and how each one beat him up. This imagination helped him digging his hole. The pain Derrick Dune made him was ten time worser then the pain while digging the hole
After he finished digging his hole, he spat in it and he joined the group of boys and Mr. Pedanski. They sat on the ground and they were talking about their lifes and futures. As Mr. Pendanski asked Stanley for what he’s at Camp Green Lake, he accuses his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather. The counselor tried to make him clear that not his great-great-grandfather was to blame for Stanley’s situation. It was just Stanley’s own fault. Mr Pedanski finally asked Zero, what he was going to do with his life and after some seconds of silence, he answered that he likes to dig holes.
The next day, Stanley digged another hole, but this time, he found something like a tube, hard and metallic. Into the flat bottom of the tube, he could see an outline of a heart, with the letters KB etched inside it. This tube looked familiar to Stanley and he thought he’d seen something like this somewhere before, but couldn’t quite place it. He showed it to X-Ray and he kept it for himself, to show it to Mr. Pedanski and probably to get one hole day off. At the end, the watertruck arrived. As the boys lined up, X-Ray told Stanley to place behind Magnet, in front of Zero. Stanley moved up one place in the line.
X-Ray showed the tube to Mr. Pedanski, and he took it to the Warden. She was a woman with read hair, wearing a cowboy hat and cowboy boots. She had long fingernails, painted in red. She’s a very dominating woman and she doesn’t want anybody to question her authority. If she asks something, you just need to answer. X-Ray got the day off, got a double shower and fresh clothes.
The Warden ordered the boys to work in a group of two. One is digging, and the other is taking the dirt away with a wheelbarrow. Stanley was in a group with Zero, the fastest digger. She was very anxious, she kept walking around, looking over the boys shoulder’s and sticking her pitchfork through the dirt piles. Then she ordered them to work together, three are digging and three are taking the dirt piles away, but they didn’t find anything more and so they get the rest of the day off. Stanley realized that they weren’t just digging to „build character“, they were definitely looking for something.
The Warden lost her patience and pushed the boys to work faster. Stanley prefered to be called Caveman, and not Stanley anymore, as Mr. Pedanski gave him a letter. Zero was the only one who didn’t go to dinner, he wanted to know what stands in Stanley’s letter. It was from his mom and he didn’t want to tell it anybody.
This day, the Warden was even more upset. She wanted their holes to meet in the middle, to become one big hole. Suddenly, Zigzag’s shovel hit Stanley on the head and he fell down. It was a wound and there flew blood out of it. As Squid brougth Stanley to Mr. Sir, he quickly put a bandage out of his sack of sunflower seeds and told him to get back to work. Zigzag’s only statement was, that he doesn’t want to dig Stanley’s dirt away, because he unintentionally threw it on Zigzag’s dirt pile.
Stanley wasn’t the fastest digger, but he was finishing his hole 30minutes after Magnet finished. After work, he began to write a letter to his mom, again lying to her. He wrote about „swimming long distances and learning rock climb“, nothing but a lie. Than Zero appeared again, standig behind Stanley. As Stanley told him, that he didn’t like when other read his letters, Zero showed himself: he isn’t able neither to write, nor to read and he wanted Stanley to teach him, but so he didn’t want to.
At noon, Magnet stole the sack of sunflower seeds from Mr. Sir and asked everybody to eat. Stanley didn’t want to, because he knew Mr. Sir would come back and there will be trouble. But before he could say anything, Magnet is throwing the open sack towards Stanley and he couldn’t catch it. The sack landed into Stanley’s hole, spilling the seeds all over the bottom of the hole. Mr. Sir discovered it and he took Stanley into the truck to go to the Warden. Instead being scared, Stanley enjoyed the protection of the truck against the rays and the wind blowing on his hot and sweaty body
Mr. Sir brought Stanley to the Warden’s cabin. Instead of punishing him or just talking about the incident with the sack of sunflower seeds, she showed Stanley her dark-red nailpolish. She mixed the colour by herself with her secret ingredient rattlesnake venom and she said „it’s only toxic while it’s wet“. After finishing her left hand, she stood up and struck Mr. Sir across the face. It took a moment for the venom to sink in and suddenly Mr. Sir screamed and clutched his face with both hands and the muscles on his face jump and twitch, his body writhed in agony. The last thing the Warden said was, „he’s not going to die, unfortunately for you Stanley“ and she sent him back to the compound.

Reading impressions:
I’m asking myself what this gold tube might be and for what does the letters KB stand for. I thought it might be a part of a pencil. I’m also questioning myself, why the Warden was so much interested in this gold tube so that X-Ray got the hole day off? Moreover the Warden’s behaviour became very strange after she were shown this gold tube. Somehow everything in this chapter appears very strange to me, because I’m not able to relate the happenings to something logical. I think this is a very clever step, because of this method he keeps the reader inquisitve. One is reading and reading, because you can’t put the book away just lke that. You always like to know what happens the next and you like to get some answers to your questions. So far, I like the book and the author’s style of writing a lot. Furthermore, I like the action on which the story is based on. I never read something similar to it.

Welcome to Camp Green Lake (Part I)

January 10, 2010


The story begins with describing the surroundig. The action takes place in Mexico at Camp Green Lake. 100 years ago there was a big lake and a town of Green Lake, but nowadays its just a dry, flat wasteland. There are a lot of scorpions and rattlesnakes and very seldom places with a bit of shade. If a rattlesnake bits you, you usually won’t die. The author tells us also about a cabin and a hammock which is stretched between two trees, but the campers are forbidden to lie in the hammock, because it belongs to the warden, and he says „the Warden owns the shade“. Sometimes the campers will try to be bitten by a scorpion or a rattlesnake, to get to the hospital. They say, it is better than digging holes out on the lake. At the end of the first chapter, the narrator mentions yellow -spotted lizzards which are very dangerous animals. If they bit you, you will die a slow and painful death for sure.

Camp Green Lake is a camp for „bad boys“ and it isn’t a place for relaxing. Young offenders are given two possibilities: Going to jail, or going to Camp Green Lake. Stanley Yelnats, growing up in a poor family, is one of those young offenders and he had never been to Camp Green Lake before.

Stanley was transferred to Camp Green Lake with a bus. He was the only passenger in the bus, handcuffed and observed by a guard with a rifle. Stanley observed the countryside, but there wasn’t much to see, mostly fields of cotton and hay. He was imagining how Camp Green Lake could be and he imagines it like Camp Fun and Games – an imaginary Camp he invented as he was a little boy by playing with his stuffed animals. He hoped that he can make some friends and at least, he’d get to swim in the lake. His backpack contained not a lot, just a toothbrush, toothpaste and a box of stationary his mother gave him. He’d promiosed her to write her letters. In this chapter, we get some more informations about Stanley. He used to be an overweight boy and because of this, the kids at the middle school teased him. Even the teachers gave away some cruel comments and called his bluff. We also get to know, that Stanley wasn’t innocent of the crime for which he was convicted. „He’d just been in the wrong playce at the wrong time“. He always accused his „no-good-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather“ for all, and he smiled while he was thinking of him. This is a family joke, to blame the no-good-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather whenever something goes wrong, because one he had stolen a pig from an one-legged Gypsy and she put a cure on him and all his descendants. Stanley and his family didn’t really believe in curses, but they felt good to be able to blame someone. During the bus ride, he realized that a lot goes wrong in his life and the family always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Then he thought about his father and his gruff voice singing to him: „If only, if only“ the woodpecker sighs, „The bark on the trees was just a little bit softer.“ While the wolf waits below, hungry and lonely. He cries to the moo-oo-oon, „If only, if only“.
His father, Stanley Yelnats III., used to sing this song to him. In this chapter, we get know Stanley’s father a bit. He was an inventor, very intelligent and perserving – but never lucky. He started a project years ago. He tried to invent a way to recycle old sneakers and we get to now, that this led to Stanley’s arrest. But up to now, he had no luck and whenever something goes wrong, he heard his father cursing his dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-grandfather. By arriving at Camp Green Lake, Stanley realized, that there isn’t any lake and hardly anything was green.

The land was desolate and barren. There were some rundown buildings and some tents and farther away there was a cabin beneath two tall trees. Stanley was brought into a building, where a man with sunglasses and cowboy hat sar, eating some sunflower seeds. His name was Mr. Sir and he had to be called by this name. Stanley got his new Camp Green Lake clothes – a long-sleeve orange jumpsuit, an orange t-shirt and yellow socks, white sneakers, an orange cap and a canteen. Mr. Sir is was presenting the conditions: digging each day a hole, including Saturdays and Sundays, and each hole must be five feet deep and five feet across in every direction. The shovel is the measuring stick. They get breakfast at 4:30. They need to wake up this early to avoid the hottest part of the day and if they dig anything interesting, they are to report it to him or to any other counselor. If they are finish, they get the rest of the day free. There were no guard towers and no electric fence, because there wasn’t a need for them. If somebody tries to run away, one will die of thirst or one will be buzzard food. The counselors were the only one’s who got water for a hundred miles. As Mr. Sir asked Stanley if he’s thirsty and Stanley affirmed it, he told him to get used to it because he is going to be thirsty for the next 8 months.
Stanley’s new counselor who was in authority for the tent D, in which Stanley slept, is Mr. Pendanski. He said Mr. Sir wasn’t that bad and just in a bad mood since he quit smoking, but Stanley needed to be afraid of the Warden. Mr. Pendanski seemed to be a nice man, very communicative and fair. He seemed to be understanding. He also introduced Stanley to two other boys called Rex and Alan. Alan was a white boy and he liked to be called Squid. The other boy, Rex, was a black boy and he also liked to be called X-Ray. Both boys came from work, they were very dirty and looked tired out. Stanley’s new cot was the one from Lewis, or so-called Barf Bag, a boy, who now is in hospital and it seemed he wasn’t coming back again. He got to know 3 other boys, introduced as José, Theodor and Ricky. But they called themselves Magnet, Armpit and Zigzag. The last one didn’t seem to have a real name, Mr. Pendanski and X-Ray called him zero. As Stanley called Theodor by his real name, he got aggressive, tooked Stanley by his collar and said, that his name isn’t Theodor, but Armpit.
At dinner, X-Ray asked him what crime he convicted. Stanley stole a pair of sneakers of Clyde Livingston, a famous baseball player and actually his personal hero. Clyde Livingston donated his pair of sneakers to help raising money for the homeless shelter. The worst thing for Stanley was, that his hero thoght he was a horrible person, that he would steal from homeless children and that he was „ a no-good-dirty-rotten“ thief. But the incident happend like this: Stanley walked home from school and the shoes came from above, one hit him on the head. Stanley took it as a sign, because his father’s project was to find a way to recycle old sneakers and suddenly a pair came out of nowhere, like a gift from God. He felt like holding destiny’s shoes and he ran home. But a patrol car pulled alongside him and a policeman asked him why he was running. Shortly thereafter, Stanley was arrested. Naturally, he blamed his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather.
The first morning, Stanley needed to dig his first hole. When he looked around, the lake reminded him of pictures he had seen of the moon. In this chapter, we get to now a lot about Stanley’s great-great-grandfather called Elya Yelnats. He, this time 15years old and Igor Barkow fell in love with a girl called Myra Menke, 14 years old. Elya asked her father for her hand, just like Igor Barkow, the pig farmer who was 57 years old at this time. Igor offered Myra’s father his biggest pig while Elya just offered his heart full of love. Myra’s father decided to take the fat pig. In his desperation, he visited his old friend Madame Zeroni. She was an old Egyptian woman, with no left foot. She advised him against his idea to marry her, because she was just beautiful but she wasn’t able do to anything a woman should have to know with this age. But nevertheless, Madame Zeroni tried to help him and she gave him one of her pigs, unfortunately the smallest one. To make the pig grow, Elya needed to carry the piglet every day to the top of the mountain and let it drink from the stream, while singing a special song to him. On Myra’s 15th birthday, he should carry up the piglet the last time up the mountain and then bringing it to Myra’s father. She promised, that it would be bigger than Igor’s. Madame Zeroni’s next whish was, that Elya carries her up to mountain so that she can drink from the stream and he needed to sing the song to her. So Elya promised. But she warned him: if he doesn’t do that, he and his descendants would be doomed for all of eternity.
Now the point of view swank back to Stanley and Camp Green Lake. The red truck arrived with Mr. Sir in it. The boys lined up behind it: X-Ray in front, Zero at the rear. Stanley got behind Zero.
Now, Elyas story continues: Elya did it like Madame Zeroni said. But at Myra’s 15th birthday, he neglected to carry up the grown up pig. Instead, he took a bath because he didn’t want to smell like a pig in front of Myra. As Myra’s father weight the two pigs, he could see that they weighed exactly the same. Maybe Elya should have carried his pig up the mountain one last time. At least, the father let Myra decide, who she liked to marry because a pig is a pig to him. But she also didn’t know who to pick, so she decided to think of a number between one and ten, and whoever guessed the closest number, may marry her. Elya, very hurt, left the place and said she should marry Igor. Elya walked down to the dock and the captain signed him aboard. Their destination was America. Suddenly, Elya realized, that he promised Madame Zeroni to carry her up the mountain and he felt terrible, but he wasn’t afraid of the curse.
While Stanley was digging, he watched the boys one by one finishing their holes and spitting in at the end. Than they went back to the camp compound. Stanley felt like digging his own grave.
As Elya came to America, he learned to speak English and met a girl called Sarah Miller. He fell in love with her and spent a lot of time with her. He also remembered Madame Zeroni saying, that she has a son who lives here. So Elya started to search for him but he didn’t find him. Elya told Sarah about Madame Zeroni and the curse, and he wanted Sarah to leave him because of the curse, but she wanted to say. Above all, she wanted him to sing the pig lullaby to her and so did he. One year later their child was born and Sarah named it Stanley because she noticed that „Yelnats“ spelled backward is „Stanley“ and she changed the pig lullaby to make it rhyme in english. Every night she sang it to Stanley:
If only, if only the woodpecker sighs, „the bark on the tree was as soft as the skies.“ While the wolf waits below, hungry and lonely, crying to the moo-oo-oon, „if only, if only“.
As Stanley finished his hole as the last one, he was very proud and spat also in it.
Among other things, we get to know more about the yellow-spotted lizzards. They are 6-10 inches long, they have yellow eyes and the skin around the eyes is red, they have black teeth and a milky white tounge. The lizzards like to live in holes, which offer shade from the sun and protects from predatory birds. Up to 20 lizzards may live in one hole. They have strong powerful legs and can leap out of very deep holes to atack their prey. They eat small animals, insects, certain thorns and the shells of sunflower seeds. The author says also, if one has ever been close enough to see the yellow spots on its yellow green body, than you’re probably dead.
Stanley took his stationary box to write his mother a letter and went to the reck room. This room was very shabby and things like chairs, tables and a tv were destroyed and smashed down. He almost got into trouble with a guy called Caveman, but the boys from his tent saved him. After they joined a game of pool, he started to write his mother a letter. But he didn’t wrote the truth, he wrote that he passed a swimming test and that he’s going to learn how to waterski. As Zero began to stare at Stanley’s letter, he stopped writing because he didn’t want to know the others what he was writing. At the end of the chapter, Stanley got to know that the boy adressed him with „Caveman“. So HE was the Caveman, not the other boy.
Stanley began to dig his second hole. Everything ached, because of the digging yesterday. As he digged, he found a white rock, looking like a fish fossil. He remembered what Mr. Pedanski said: If you find something interesting the Warden could like, than you might get the rest of the day free. Than the watertruck arrived and the boys lined up, always the same, no matter who reached the truck first. First X-Ray, than Armpit, Squid, Zigzag, Magnet Zero and than Stanley. When Stanley showed Mr. Pedanski the fossil he found, he wasn’t enthusiastic and said that the Warden isn’t interested in fossils.

Reading impression: When I began to read this book, I felt thrown into something, just like watching a movie after it started an hour ago. After those 10 chapters, a lot of questions came up:
*What role does those mentioned animals play? Are they important for understanding the story?
*Why do they think that digging holes can improve the character of the young offenders?

*Why is Stanley convicted, when he says that he’s innocent?
*What role plays the song which Stanley’s father sings to his son?
*In which relation do the project of the father stands to Stanley’s accusation?

*Why do the boys have nicknames? And why do Armpit gets aggressive as Stanley calls him by his real name?
*In what is the Warden interested?
*Why do the boys have always the same order, no matter who reaches the watertruck first?
As the counselor said, that bunking is aimless although there aren’t any monitoring system, I felt some kind of panic. This feeling of no way out although nobody detains you is very bone-crushing. And I also felt panic, as the counselor said, that Stanley better gets used to be thirsty because the next 8 months thirst will be his permanent accompanist. How will this work, when the boys need to dig holes 5 feet deep and 5 feet long everyday and to start before the sun rises up? Even if you’re doing nothing physically exhausting, being thirsty is one of the worst feelings. I really feel sorry for Stanley that he has to work this hard under so bad conditions. Until now, I recommend this book, because it’s exciting. The reader likes to now, why Stanley is convicted but innocent and one likes to now, how the situation at Camp Green Lake is going to develop. I think, it is going to be even more exciting…

Holes by Louis Sachar

November 1, 2009